Historic Hendersonville, NC is the official home of the annual North Carolina Apple Festival, a four-day celebration of the bountiful Henderson County apple harvest. The festival is held annually over Labor Day weekend on Main Street, culminating with the King Apple Parade on Labor Day. The street fair, which covers 9 linear blocks, is capped at 150 vendors to manage crowds and preserve the attendee experience.
For the 67th Anniversary in 2013, the NC Apple Festival Board of Directors commissioned an objective, professionally-conducted research study to examine the festival and its economic and cultural impacts on the community. From the estimated overall attendance of 250,000 in 2013, unique attendance was calculated; 182,065 attendees, with 37,168 Henderson county residents and 144,897 non-Henderson County residents. During the study, a total of 400 completed, randomly-administered iPad surveys throughout all four festival days and operating hours were returned at a response rate of 79%, with no incentive provided for participation.
Geographically, the majority of attendees were distributed regionally around Western North Carolina and the Upstate of South Carolina, within a 2 hour drive from Hendersonville. From the research study data, organizers can now obtain a clearer picture of where attendees were coming from, their demographic information, spending breakdowns for unique areas or demographics, how they heard about the festival, and also when and why they decided to attend the festival.
Economically, the study estimates the direct spending economic contribution to Henderson County generated by the 2013 North Carolina Apple Festival to be $12,490,017. Of that total amount, $2,146,182 was direct spending by Henderson County residents and $10,343,835 was direct spending by non-resident attendees. It was determined that less than 40% of the total spending occurred in the festival grounds, with the study tracking how the remainder was distributed to industries throughout the county. The festival also contributed 4,591 room nights to the Henderson County economy. From these detailed direct spending metrics, festival organizers now enjoy the benefit of tracking how residents and non-residents alike spent money within the festival production and community during their visit.
Culturally, the study provided many insightful benefits to organizers. As a large regional draw to Hendersonville, the festival generates heavy pedestrian and vehicular congestion throughout the downtown area. These disturbances were noted by resident respondents, yet their sentiments were generally positive for their perceived economic, cultural, and community recognition benefits. From non-resident (out-of-county) attendees, organizers learned that 76% were likely to visit Henderson County again throughout the year. Factors for prompting such repeat visitation throughout the seasons were also identified, providing insight into areas of focus for tourism development.
The 2013 NC Apple Festival study is available for public viewing at www.ncapplefestival.org. Recommended once every 3-5 years, objective research studies provide actionable data that is beneficial to stakeholders and the community at-large in many ways. When understood and properly employed, reliable information provides tremendous event production, tourism, and economic development potential. Curious to learn how your event or organization can benefit? Connect with the Looking Glass team today to learn more!